Interview: Another Kickstarter round for the B9Creator

The Dawn of the 3D Printing Age - Art by Dennis HarrounNearly a year ago, the 3D printing scene saw a few new printers based on a technology other than squirting plastic out of a nozzle. These printers used DLP projectors underneath a vat of UV curing resin to build objects one layer at a time with incredible resolution.

Probably the most successful of these printers is the B9Creator from [Michael Joyce]. His original Kickstarter took in half a million dollars – 10 times his original goal – and still managed to deliver all the kits to backers within 2 weeks of the promised date. Now, [Michael] is running another Kickstarter before taking his printers to select distributors. We played some email tag with [Michael] for an interview discussing the perils of a hugely successful Kickstarter, and the future of the B9Creator ecosystem.

Check out our interview after the break.

Q:  Did you have any problems getting enough parts in time to ship for the first Kickstarter?
A:  We were surprised by the response but most items not an issue.  What did slow us down was a delay from the Projector factory when we doubled our original estimated order amount.

Q: Will this Kickstarter’s units be different?
A: They will.  Thanks to feedback from our first machines we’ve been able to make some improvements which simplify the design a bit and more importantly, increase the quality of the output.  We’re also offering upgrade rewards so our previous backers can easily upgrade to the new version if they desire.

Q: Your Kickstarter campaign is only 2 weeks long, most company’s tend to run 30 days or longer.  Why so short?
A:  Well, we knew we had a fair number of customers that have been patiently waiting so we wanted to give them the opportunity to back us but still not extend their wait any longer than needed.  After this Kickstarter ends, we plan to only sell via distributors.  So this will also be the last chance to get a B9Creator at a wholesale price point.

Q: Were there unexpected issues that people brought up when they received their units?
A:  Not really, it’s a Kit so we spent a lot of time on both instructions and videos.  We also have a great community forum where it’s pretty easy to find an answer to your question quickly.

Q: Any plans to offer resin in different colors than the red you already have?
A: The pigment used in the resin must absorb Blue to Near UV light frequencies because we use the pigment to limit the depth of cure. So Yellow, Orange, Red, Black are good choices, Green, Blue Violet are not. We are working on a dark gray to black right now and hope to be offering that by late April.

Q: After this, you said you’ll be selling through distributors. Care to drop any names?
A: No “big names”, I’m focusing on distributors that are experts in their field and that can offer good support to their customers.

Q: Any long-term plans for an upgraded machine with a larger build area?
A: Scaling this technology to larger build areas (in the XY plane) faces some pretty big challenges. The Z axis is fairly easy (we already offer 210 mm ~8″). Larger projection areas must trade resolution for size. HD projectors (1920 x 1080 pixel) offer some help (vs the 1024 x 768 pixels in the B9Creator) but that’s only a small increase. The other challenge is the projector power required does not scale linearly (ie, double the X & Y dimensions and you quadruple the power required to cure at the same speed). Where these DLP based machines really shine is their ability to create very detailed and smooth surface finishes. So that’s where we’ll focus our continued development.

We’ve got to say the B9Creator looks really cool and has already proven itself as a capable machine able to produce lost wax casts for jewelry making and amazingly detailed resin figurines. While the material for resin-based 3D printers is more expensive than the RepRaps and Makerbots we see around here, if you want extremely high-resolution for small parts, you might want to check out the B9Creator Kickstarter.

Comments

  1. Hack Man says:

    Form 1 not so much with the whole “making ship dates” thing.

    Estimated delivery: Feb 2013

  2. Is there any comparison info between this and the form1?

    • Hack Man says:

      Form 1 uses a laser, instead of DLP. It’s a SLS, point based system.

    • DLP results in smaller pixels but limited XY build area compared to the Form 1 laser. Makes us ideal for very smooth smaller parts. Depending on the density of the print, the B9Creator is potentially faster since we cure the entire layer at once vs, drawing the image with a laser dot.
      We’re open source, if you’re into that sort of thing.

      • Hack Man says:

        Yes and no. Laser’s ultimate resolution is higher than DLP.

        • Just comparing Form 1’s 300 micron min feature spec they’ve published. http://formlabs.com/pages/faq

        • CarterTG says:

          Shrinking the laser dot to a tenth of its current size would only mean more time needed to draw the slice image. While resin cure times can be reformulated for faster UV reaction, I doubt it’ll scale in linear fashion without introducing adverse effects. Exposure time becomes the bottleneck that makes a grow session drag on for the sake of trying to match DLP’s resolution.
          Parallel pixel curing used in DLP is already at the resolution where it bumps against or surpasses the investment limitations of metal casting. For all the R&D they pump into it, no one’s noticing the $100K+ commercial SLA 3D printers are using DLP over (OhMahGerd!) laser?
          I very sincerely tried to justify the addition of the Form1 as the third 3D printer to the stable but the MakerBotesque 300 micron X-Y featuresize and longer grow times only made their claim of “high resolution” reak most pungently.

  3. Luke says:

    That triangular B9C logo at the start of the new Kickstarter video is actually a really competent logo. Definitely corporate quality! It’s a pretty unusual thing to see in the DIY 3D printer scene. Such a damn shame, then, that the same Kickstarter video ends with a completely different (and vastly poorer) logotype, and doubly so that the printer itself still has that unsightly handwriting typeface.

    Don’t take that as a criticism of the device itself. I’ve seen one of these kits in person and overall it’s quite a nice device. It’s just that, as a designer myself, I’m like, “Aw, come on!” when branding is such a near miss.

    • Thanks for the complement on the new logo, I’d like to jazz up the entire branding as you indicate but I’m focused more on delivery dates and functional software, etc. Just a one man show right now (and I did the logo myself ;-)

  4. snow says:

    its now the second time i see comments on problems with future resolution upgrade because of limited power of the projectors. correct me if im wrong but the photopolymers only cure with certain frequency of light (blue-UV) so wouldnt it make sense to upgrade the bulb of the projector to deliver a more “tuned” light frequency instead of just pumping up the wattage of a spectrum bulb in which 80% of light frequencys do nothing?

    • Marco says:

      Modifying the optical assembly of a modern projector is not a trivial matter … short arc UV bulbs have an entirely different form factor than the normal projector lamps.

      • snow says:

        im aware of that i was actually more thinking along the line of a mercury lamp or blue/UV led if they ever manage to get the the efficiency up. also if you really wanted to use a short arc UV lamp you would have to build the projector from scratch since glass and plexiglass usually absorb most UV light. my thought was more about using bulbs that emit blue to near UV light not UV itself.

    • Hack Man says:

      Different photoinitiators cure at different wavelengths.

    • “wouldn’t it make sense to upgrade the bulb of the projector to deliver a more “tuned” light frequency instead of just pumping up the wattage of a spectrum bulb in which 80% of light frequencies do nothing?”
      Cost/benefit trade didn’t work for me. Also, you need something very close to a point source for light, an array of blue LED’s is too spread out (without redesigning a LOT, which goes back to cost).

      • freelancer says:

        there are relatively powerful UV-LEDs (several Watts electrical power), i guess these are still too weak and too expensive?

        • Hack Man says:

          UV LEDs are used in some inkjet type UV curing applications. MH < LED bulb as MH gives off a ton of heat and just happens to give off UV.

          • snow says:

            sorry should have been more specific i was thinking of a Mercury vapor lamp not MH (closely related but not the same) MH is again full spectrum since it contains sodium and other trace elements a true mercury vapor lamp will have distinct spectrum peaks (7 acording to wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_lamp of those 3 would have about the right wavelength)

  5. hboy007 says:

    Love the reference to 2001 – a space odyssey!

  6. wolftousen says:

    Why not make the printer projector agnostic and have an option to buy a kit without the projector? That’s been my blocking point for a while as I already have 4 projectors and would prefer to convert one than spend the extra for a new one. It’s pretty much forced me and a friend to start making our own from scratch…

    • Rakyth says:

      The mount is specific to the projector used, it doesn’t make sense for him to try and support your alternative build. Just follow his plans and add in your own projector.

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